Stories & Updates from around the Studio

Artist Spotlight: Calvin Liang

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June 2022 Artist Spotlight — Calvin Liang

Calvin Liang is joining Carmel Visual Arts to lead a plein air painting workshop along the Monterey Peninsula Oct 12–14, 2022 (Wed–Fri). He talked about his process with our Director, Rich Brimer. Read the highlights below.

Calvin Liang became fascinated by the beautiful California landscape and transformed himself into a fine artist, painting themes of his choosing. Now his well-known sailboats crashing through waves, to rocky California coastline, to Spanish missions of centuries past, Calvin Liang’s masterful oils never fail to impress and inspire. Rediscover beautiful land and seascapes through Calvin’s eyes. He is a signature member of the California Art Club, a master signature member of Oil Painters of America, a signature member of Oil Painters of America, and Laguna Plein Air Painter’s Association. He is the recipient of numerous art awards and is featured in many art magazines.

Calvin Liang

“Big Sur Coast” by Calvin Liang

Calvin Liang talks about his process…

CVA: What are the most essential elements to think about when painting?
Calvin: Shape, Color, Value, Edges — These are the four elements to make a painting. This is for any kind of painting; seascape, portrait, landscape, even abstract—any kind of subject. This is the same as music that uses Do Re Me Fa So… Any type of music uses the same scale, so art uses the same elements — Shape, Color, Value and Edges.

How do you decide what subject matter you will paint?
Whenever you see the line and shadow, THAT’S the painting. It is basically back to shapes. But, I usually paint seascapes. Partly because of the market, but basically, for me, I pay attention to the light and shadow. Seascapes are my favorite. When I see the ocean, I get so excited. When I was first asked in a magazine interview “Why are you so crazy about the Seascapes?” I told them I am a city boy, but saw the ocean for the first time when I was 18 years old. Oh, my goodness, I was so excited. So when I moved to the United States, I went to the ocean to paint.

CVA: Your commercial work was as an illustrator and making storyboards and backgrounds for the animation industry. How do you find that being helpful in your current fine-art work?
I learned how to create an environment for the subject. I put the focal point in the foreground or the middle ground. This is what I learned from the animation industry.

CVA: I love the way you compose your paintings. Tell me what are some of the best things to know when choosing a “subject” or “focus” in a landscape environment.
For me, the subject is not important, but the location of the subject is very important. It could be a boat, a person, or a wave, but everything around the painting supports that focal point. The background supports the subject. If you put the focal point in the background, the painting seems to have a subject that gets lost. Remember, pay attention to the light and shadow.

CVA: Where do you look for inspiration in your art?
In animation, the storyboard artists really have to follow the script. In fine art, it is the “idea” that inspires me in my paintings. I love warm red. My eyes filter the warm colors. It makes me really love the subject. Also, I really love the warm colors. It depends on what kind of filter is in your eyes. Each artist has a natural way of seeing that is different from other artists. I just paint the way that I see. People say “Calvin, you paint with warm colors” and I say, it’s just the way my eyes filter everything.

Thanks, Calvin for the many years of teaching with Carmel Visual Arts and for answering these questions about you and your approach to artmaking.

Calvin Liang Plein Air Workshop
Oct 12–14, 2022 (Wed–Fri)


We are Back! Creating Art Experiences

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I want to start by saying Thank You! to everyone for supporting us through the very difficult time in the past year. The COVID-19 Pandemic took the wind out of our sails in March 2020 and we could not move for several months. Once we got our bearings, a light breeze caused some ripples and we developed a tentative plan to get back on track. Out of 18 workshops scheduled in 2020, we hosted only two before the shutdown, while two others were achieved by moving one outdoors and one to a ZOOM workshop. We canceled or rescheduled the rest until 2021.

We are on a roll! Our workshop schedule is back in full swing.

This year, we began with three ZOOM workshops. Then in May/June 2021, we had our first round of in-person workshops and it was so good to be back in Carmel with everyone. Below are some great photos that I made from some of these workshops. We still have some open spots available for our September 2021 plein air painting workshops, so look at our schedule on our WORKSHOP PAGE. Perhaps you can join us for one of them.

Artist Spotlight: David Lobenberg — Watercolor Portrait Artist

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David Lobenberg

Carmel Visual Arts: David, we are excited to welcome you back for another California Vibe Watercolor Portraiture™ workshop with Carmel Visual Arts. This time we will be exploring embellishing these vibrant portraits with fun and experimental techniques you will be showing us. Since we were not able to host a workshop with you in 2020, we are excited to catch up with you in this new Q&A format. We have a few questions that have come up for you. Here we go…

Your style of work, “Happy Vibe” portraits is something many people wish they could have been inspired to paint during the course of the past year’s pandemic. It seems the lively colors, would turn around any dull mood someone may find themselves in – just by pulling out some simple materials and getting started. What is the first thing you do when you decide to paint? What gets you in the “Happy Vibe” mood?

Whistle Blast, by David Lobenberg

David Lobenberg: I use bright, vibrant, expressive color in most of my portraits, so before I paint, I have at least four puddles of those colors on my palette ready to go. I also like to paint with big brushes using bold, dynamic strokes. With that said, before I apply paint to paper, my mood needs to be both relaxed and fearless, knowing that if I fail, I’ll just hop back onto my palette and with a new sheet of watercolor paper and start over! So… puddles and palettes are ready to go plus being relaxed and fearless equals happy-time watercoloring!

CVA: How many colors do you generally apply to a given portrait? Do you prefer to keep your colors clean and bold rather than mixing them wet? Do you overlay the color relying on their translucence to blend?

DL: I like both colors straight out of the tube and mixed but usually with only two-color mixtures. The colors can be mixed both on the palette and in wet-on-dry or wet-on-wet washes. I sometimes will glaze, but I don’t overly rely on that technique.

CVA: Can you describe for us an example of a happy accident?

DL: With tongue-in-cheek, I tell my workshop students that I hate the term “Happy Accident.” I coined a replacement term (and again with tongue-in-cheek): “Serendipitous Event.” This term gives the medium of watercolor a wee bit more gravitas. Anyway, a happy accident is something that you were not intending to do while painting. An example would be one’s loaded brush drips a drop or two onto your painting before you apply a wash. You have two choices: grab a paper towel and sop it up or look at it and think “that looks good. I’ll leave it there.” I most always apply splatters and drips on my paintings, so this is often what I think when an errand drop occurs. I think artists that accept happy accidents are looser painters and (with tongue-in-cheek), happier humans!


Spikey Boy

CVA: You have been painting people of color throughout your career, can you share with us some painting techniques to capture a range of skin tones?

DL: You can be very inventive and expressive with portraiture colors. The secret is to follow the value patterns that you see. That’s what all painters do anyway. The trick is that you want your colors to have an eye-pleasing unity. What I do is work around faces and features with analogous colors while carefully following the value pattern. I like the term “Valhue.” Valhue is the coupling of value with color (hue).

CVA: Does a photograph have to be high contrast when you print your reference or do you accentuate the lighting on your computer to create the areas of distinction.

DL: I love to paint my portraits with strong value contrasts. I do this by taking photos of my subjects in dramatic lighting conditions: either a strong light source in a darkened room or outside on a sunny day. I also often fiddle with the value range in my photos on the computer. In my case, it is with the controls that come with my Mac photo library. I can also fiddle with color. The majority of the time, however, I turn my color photographs into black and white prints. I do this to be inventive and not be a slave to color photos or digital manipulations.

CVA: Do you ever find yourself painting couples or are they most always solo subjects?

DL: I paint predominately single subjects. I have seen many multiple subject portraiture paintings that are truly awesome and inspiring, but to date, I just can’t pull myself away from diving into the single, lone subject!

Thanks for your input, David. We always love having you as one of our instructors because your workshops are so full of fun and freestyle expression.

For those interested in joining this online workshop that is coming up, you should know that there are only a few spots left. For info and registration, go to https://www.carmelvisualarts.com/david-lobenberg/

Watch a brief timelapse of David embellishing “Whistle Blast”
one of his California Vibe Watercolor Portraits below

Let’s Get Together Again!

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The Monterey County coast is for sure one of the most beautiful coasts in the world. It has always been a huge inspiration for artists of all kinds. As Carmel Visual Arts wades through the ramifications of the past year’s global pandemic, we look forward to continuing our presence with the upcoming workshops along the coast and into Carmel Valley.

I have always been a supporter of collaboration. There are so many artists and art organizations in the Monterey Bay area that have also been struggling. We have been in discussions with some of them and we hope to be collaborating with them even more this year. We all are in this together and the recovery of the arts will take some time. I want to send out a hearty THANK YOU for all the support we have received since the pandemic started. So many of you have held-on while we rescheduled workshops in 2020.

With that, I have been getting excited about our upcoming workshops and getting together with a few artists at a time. All of our Spring 2021 outdoor workshops are FULL and Terri Ford’s pastel workshop in June is getting close! Although many of us will have or will be getting vaccinated before attending these workshops, we will still need to use caution and keep socially distanced and everyone will maintain wearing masks during the classes. Getting together is such an important part of a healthy society. I am happy that we are moving in the right direction to be doing just that.

I hope to see you soon! Send me a note and let me know how you are doing.

Rich Brimer, Director


Artist Spotlight: Photographer Alan Ross

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There are only a few spots left for the upcoming Alan Ross photography Workshop 2021. We are excited to host Alan for his fifth return to Carmel. Recently, Carol Henry, photography director at Carmel Visual Arts asked Alan a few questions. You may be interested in reading what he has to say. We also hope you can join us for this legendary photographer’s return.

Carmel Visual Arts: Alan, you have done four workshops with Carmel visual arts in the past. And you live in Santa Fe, NM. What is it about this region around Carmel that you enjoy when you go out with your workshop attendees?

Alan Ross: The Monterey-Carmel-Big Sur area is packed with wonderful things to see and work with. Carmel’s Point Lobos alone has a marvelous sea-and-shore offering – including Weston Beach! It also has quiet forest areas and historic whaling-station buildings. Seals sunning themselves and otters at play. Down the coast to Big Sur there are beaches and bridges and the Old Coast road offers redwood forests and dramatic views out over the Pacific. And just up the road into Carmel Valley there are wonderful oak woodlands.

CVA: How is working on the coast different from other places you enjoy very much, like Yosemite?

AR: In many ways, working on the immediate coast is more “alive” than working in other natural environments. While subtile changes in the currents of waterfalls and rivers have lives of their own, it is hard to compare with the infinitely changeable surge or crashing of ocean waters on a rocky shore – or even a sandy beach. Witnessing the soar of an occasional eagle or hawk or seeing grazing deer in a meadow is not quite the same as the rush of a sky full of vocal seagulls, cormorants hanging their wings out to dry or seeing a bunch of otters frolicking in the waves.  The coast has a life of its own.

CVA: It seems your passion for image making has superseded the film versus digital conversation. What are some additional thoughts you may have on these tools or methodologies?

AR: Cameras and lenses are only tools – different ones do their job differently – and render images with varying characteristics.  I like to opine that “one can drive a screw with a hammer, but it may not be the most effective tool for the job!”  If Ansel Adams only had a very fine Leica in his hands in Hernandez in 1941, the resulting image would not be the same as Moonrise, Hernandez from and 8×10 negative! But that 8×10 camera would not be the best tool for combat photography. Digital imaging can do many things that film photography cannot – and the other way around! A 64 megabyte card in a digital camera is one hell of a large roll of film – but then, one cannot grasp or hold a handful of pixels. There is nothing tangible about a digital image unless it winds up on film or paper.

CVA: You have mastered many styles of photography ; Nature, architectural, still life, even portraiture. Which excites you the most when traveling to a new place?

AR: The excitement in traveling to a new place is the sense of discovery.  I wrote a blog some years ago I called “Too Close to Home” – a condition of one’s surroundings becoming so familiar and “same” that we no longer are surprised or excited by the things around us. Even going back to a fond place we have been to before we enjoy seeing things again and perhaps because of a lapse in time we can see things with with “fresh” eyes!  I lived in Carmel for quite a few years – and it wound up becoming “too close to home” – but now when I return I see things I never noticed before or I had forgotten about and love seeing those things and places again.

CVA: I ask that because photography and travel go hand in hand, and I think we have all missed seeing new places through our camera lens in the past year. How have you kept yourself inspired and creative during the pandemic?

AR: Like much of the world, the pandemic has indeed kept me pretty close to home – unlike my  2019 travels to Virginia, New Jersey, Cuba, Georgia, North Carolina, Yosemite, Ireland, Scotland, Yosemite and China. But thanks to my photographs, I was able to “visit” all of those places again and again. The world was in my cameras.

Alan Ross continues to print the Ansel Adams special edition prints that are exclusive only through the Ansel Adams Gallery. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his wife Julie, photographing and teaching workshops abroad. If you want to join his upcoming workshop, click the link below.


Artist Spotlight: Huihan Liu — Outdoor Figurative Painting

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“Where am I?” Oil painting by Huihan Liu

Huihan Liu returns to Carmel Visual Arts May 16–18, 2021 to lead his upcoming workshop Outdoor Figurative Painting

Huihan Liu is a master oil painter and generous instructor. His atmospheric narrative figure work has brought him accolades around the world. Born in Guangzhou, China, he trained from 1972 to 1975 at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Art. In 1989, Huihan graduated with a Bachelor’s degree and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Academy of Art College of San Francisco. According to him, his strongest influences during his studies in China were the 19th-century Western painters.

Huihan, I am glad you are coming back to Carmel for another outdoor figure painting workshop. You are a master at capturing costumed models in outdoor environments. You have a great way of adding atmosphere in your work. Let’s talk about your process as we consider the upcoming outdoor figure workshop you will be teaching in May 2021. We are keeping this class small so we can adhere to social distancing needs, while you will be able to work more with each student by having fewer people in the workshop.

CVA: What is the most efficient way to learn to draw and paint the figure?
HL: Have the basic knowledge about the figure’s structure and form, it helps to understand and simplify the shapes and form. This will clarify the confusion when the light is shifting. It is always a good practice to draw and paint in short and long poses.

Huihan starts a new painting demo

CVA: How do you decide what subject matter you will paint?
HL: I think that subject matter is a personal choice. I like a more natural look than a set-up look—even though I take a lots of time planning from my vision. However, I like it when the painting comes out naturally. 

CVA: Your commercial work was as an illustrator and making storyboards for the animation industry. How do you find that being helpful in your current fine art work?
HL: My training background was as an academic in fine art in the 70s. My interest in visual elements and design purposes are not much difference between illustration or storyboard or fine art. The only difference is that it is NOT your idea, you work with art director to meet the deadlines. It was helpful as a discipline and for learning. 

CVA: I love the way you compose your paintings. Tell me what some of the best things to know when putting a figure in a landscape environment.
HL: When I consider the composition in a painting with a figure in an environment, my attention is in the environment and surrounding, I like the figure to be part of nature in their connection. Perhaps I enjoy culture, when I visit the place. I like to explore the local culture and the history. It is the same as in my many international painting trips.

Morning incense at johang monastery

Morning incense at Johang monastery

CVA: Where do you look for inspiration in your art?

All forms of art are related—such as painting, music, movie, dance, drama, reading. As I am getting older, I not only sit in front of a painting easel for hours, I look for many sources to simulate my vision as an inspiration on painting. 
To get your spot reserved, go to https://www.carmelvisualarts.com/huihan-liu/

Artist Spotlight: Mike Hernandez — Digital Painting Expert

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Mike Hernandez • March 27, 28, 2021

Mike Hernandez brings us our first digital painting workshop designed to help artists of all mediums. We have had a number of people inquire about having one, so here is your chance to learn from one of the best instructors I know to teach such a class. Mike Hernandez has over 20 years at DreamWorks Animation, creating environments for digitally produced feature films such as Sinbad, Spirit, Over The Hedge, Shrek 4, Puss In Boots, Bee Movie, Monsters Vs Aliens, and Turbo. Mike returns to lead this workshop after instructing two previous gouache painting workshops for Carmel Visual Arts in the past few years. By way of introduction, I have talked to Mike about the upcoming class and I think this interview will help you see that you can get some great insight from a natural light, color and atmosphere expert.

CVA: I know you started painting in gouache in a design class as a student at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, CA. After graduation you started straight away at DreamWorks Animation. What have been some of the most important lessons learned as an artist in the animation world?
MH: My best lesson from the industry is to be intentional and to have a narrative. Some kind of focal point and concept. In filming our audience has only seconds to get our concept from shot to shot so the quicker the read the better. Don’t confuse the audience with too many details and no focal point. Also have a hierarchy to your color choices for focusing your points of interest. Don’t just put color everywhere.

CVA: In your previous gouache workshops I heard you tell students about how working in gouache allowed you to work out designs much faster than using oils. Can you tell me what elements carry over to your paintings?
MH: The biggest obstacle in oil painting is its application. Edges tend to get blurry and colors muddy when first learning the medium. Gouache allows students to regain edge control and cleaner colors. It also helps to paint smaller when learning and gouache is ideal for that.

CVA: Some traditional artists are intimidated by a digital painting workshop. What would you say to a non-digital artist about what they would get from this online workshop?
MH: Not to fear any and all mediums. These are just additional tools for learning. Photoshop is such a forgivable and fast tool for discovering colors and lighting. Nothing is ever too precious when painting digitally. Adjustments are also very quick so the learning turnaround is faster. None of what I do digitally is meant for a gallery wall. Just a supplemental learning tool for my traditional work.

CVA: I know using a Wacom tablet with a stylus on my computer has been very useful in my own digital work. What hardware do you recommend students get for this workshop?
MH: A Wacom and stylus pen would be the least. My preferred tool of choice is a Cintiq tablet but those can be very expensive. Also, any tablet that allows you to use a stylus pen directly to the screen will be perfect.

Mike Hernandez’s Digital Painting Workshop is coming up in March 27, 28, 2021 (Sat-Sun) This online class will be taught via Zoom. During the workshop, students will have the opportunity to interact with Mike, watch his live demos, and receive instruction and limited feedback. For more information and registration form, go to https://www.carmelvisualarts.com/mike-hernandez/

Paul Kratter! The workshop is September 19–21, 2021

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Paul Kratter! The workshop is September 19–21, 2021

Paul Kratter—Our favorite plein air jester and awesome painter—is joining us again in September 2021 for his highly anticipated plein air workshop on the Monterey Peninsula called Fresh & Direct Landscape Painting — Paul Kratter’s paintings embody the light, atmosphere, and emotion that only an accomplished artist can convey. Paul, along with many experienced fine art painters comes from an illustration background that instills strong drawing and design skills and a robust belief in graphic shapes and storytelling. This is prevalent in Paul’s work as a skillful and accomplished landscape artist.

“Paint long enough and it becomes obvious as to which artists are truly connected to their work. Those who are devoted to quality and continuous improvement. Paul Kratter is one such artist. His dedication to working from direct observation, connection to fellow artists, and focus on hard work have put him at the top of his game.” Matt Smith —American artist.

You heard it here first! Get signed up HERE, Paul‘s workshop will quickly fill. Join the fun — You’ll have a good time.

New 2021 ZOOM Workshops available at Carmel Visual Arts

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We are announcing some exciting workshops that you will be able to take from the convenience and safety of your own home or studio. With the COVID-9 pandemic lingering into the beginning of 2021, we have three ZOOM-Cast workshops coming up with more to follow in the coming months.

To start off the new year, Mike Hernandez offers a Digital Painting workshop on March 27 & 28, 2021. Mike is well known for his MAD digital skills from years of work on digitally animated movies at DreamWorks. His understanding of natural color and light has brought many animated features to life. His knowledge will be a huge asset for you with any medium of painting you work in. You may also be familiar with his advanced gouache work which he has been perfecting for years as an instructor at Art Center and primarily works in for his amazing fine art. For more information, go to https://www.carmelvisualarts.com/mike-hernandez/

Angus Wilson returns for his second ZOOM workshop on April 8–11, 2021. Angus brings his unique vision to mix up your paintings with great confidence and color. He will also bring his often dry British humor to the class. Although this workshop has been filled for a few months, you can get on the short waiting list at https://www.carmelvisualarts.com/angus/

David Lobenberg has been teaching art workshops for over 30 years and his California Vibe Watercolor Portraiture™ workshops all over the country. Portrait “Stencil Embellishment” is an extension of David’s super-expressive California Vibe Watercolor Portraiture™ style. It adds to the watercolor portrait an extra exciting layer of visual energy. His works and techniques have been published in the following national and international periodicals: International Artist, The Art of Watercolour, Southwest Art, Artist’s Magazine, Art Collector, Plein Air Magazine, The Palette Magazine, and Pratique De Arts. You will get huge a dose of FUN and waaaay out visual and emotional energy using “sick” expressive color and “nutty” paint application. Sign up for this exciting online workshop today at https://www.carmelvisualarts.com/david-lobenberg/

If you have some suggestions for an instructor you would like us to add to our lineup of online workshops, feel free to call or drop me a line at rich@carmelvisualarts.com

Stay creative and safe!

Rich Brimer, Director
Carmel Visual Arts

Bring on 2021! Our Schedule is Growing

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2020 has been a doozy! Am I right?!? Yes, it has. We launched into 2020 with many sold-out art workshops—only to be stunned with the quickly changing developments amid the coronavirus pandemic. As we have moved, changed, canceled, and postponed workshops all year, we have received much goodwill and sentiment from the art community and we appreciate that. Now, with the global pandemic in place, we all face difficult shared struggles that although is individual in nature, we identify together as having this common experience.

Our 2020 art workshop schedule has been a moving target so we have decided to postpone the rest of our scheduled workshops to 2021. Please view our updated workshop list here. We were only able to host 4 out of the scheduled 18 workshops for 2020. I never imagined that we would have to cancel or postpone any workshops, let alone 14 of them, but this is what we had to do. I am really heartbroken about this. If you were registered in a workshop that was canceled or postponed, and have asked for a refund, please be patient as we rebuild our business. We will honor your requests as we are able.

Since opening Carmel Visual Arts — seven years ago — Carol Henry and I have been building “community” through our studio and gallery.  Since then we have hosted over art 30 exhibitions in Carmel, with well-over 100 workshops and dozens of public art demonstrations. We are extremely happy to share that more than one thousand artists have taken these workshops with top professional instructors in both painting and photography.

The Barnyard Shopping Village has been a perfect location for us during our first seven years. As we approached our eighth year in Carmel, it became obvious that because of the deep shift that has occurred in our business model, due to the COVID-19 economic disaster, we would soon be closing the studio space. With no fanfare or a locals-only closing party, we finally shut-down the studio at the end of July 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a very real economic disaster for Carmel Visual Arts. Yes, we will rebuild our business but it will look different. (More on that another in another post) However, with the continued support of the community and students, we will do this together and go forward.

Rich Brimer, Director
Carmel Visual Arts

831.620.2955 – cell

Feel free to give me a call anytime. If I am busy, please leave a message and I will call you back as soon as I can.